While the passing of Thomas Joseph Raftery, VII, 77, on June 3rd, 2020, in Chatham was unexpected, the countless lives he touched were not. If you were fortunate enough to know “Tom”, you at least once were the recipient of his generosity or expertise, or the beneficiary of his encouragement to forge deeper professional and personal connections between people across the planet. You probably were also gifted a gadget you never knew you needed or delivered an itinerary for a destination you never knew existed. You most certainly were part of a tale to tell; collectively these stories created an infinite library of Tom’s memories to be shared by all those who honored, admired and adored him.
The son of Thomas Joseph Raftery, VI, and Edna May Conner, Thomas Joseph Raftery, VII was born in Worcester in 1943. He attended South High School, where he captained the tennis team, his first foray into playing and organizing a sport with passion. Tom married Janet Ann Robinson in June 1966, and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst in 1967. Later that summer he enrolled in Officer’s Candidate School in Newport, R.I. Tom was commended with the Reserve Officers Association Leadership Award, having been selected for demonstrating to the highest degree the elements of effective leadership, personal example, good management practices and moral responsibility. This theme was the compass of Tom’s entire life, ensuring that fun and adventure abundantly flowed in tandem. In August 1968 Tom reported for active duty at the Naval Station in Long Beach, California, and served aboard the USS Truxton (DLG(N) 35). He played a pivotal role as Tactical Data Systems Officer while at sea in Vietnam and completed his tour as a decorated Lieutenant with the National Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal.
Steadfast in his service to our country, Tom continued to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserves beginning in 1970 for twenty years. As Lieutenant Commander of the Mobile Inshore Underwater Unit 201, under his own initiative Tom developed a computerized war gaming simulation system to ensure safer training, and often instructed summer courses at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Tom was awarded the Twice a Citizen Award for his efforts in heading up a counseling program that resulted in the highest retention and re-enlistment of Petty Officers during his tenure. Supervising several onshore and offshore mobilization units for two decades, Tom completed his tenure with the rank of Captain in his honorable service.
While in uniform on weekends, Tom honed his computer acumen as an employee of the Honeywell Corporation during the weekdays. On multiple scholarships he attended Boston’s Suffolk Law School in the evenings, graduated Magna Cum Laude, and spoke as Valedictorian of the Class of 1974. Although evenings were dedicated to law classes and a gregarious study session or two, “Dad” always professed Saturday as “Family Day”, which often began with unwieldly stacks of banana pancakes or sausages by Bunsen burner on a pre-dawn outing to Plum Island. Tom cherished seasonal adventures with his family and their friends, among them skiing in the N.H. White Mountains and sailing aboard his beloved boat, Earendil, out of Buzzards Bay in Marion.
Specializing in commercial law, bankruptcy reorganization and financing, Tom established himself as an accomplished, trusted attorney among several prominent firms in Boston. After years of making friends on the daily train from Concord to North Station, Tom started his own legal practice out of his home in Carlisle. Licensed in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Tom earned the respect of multiple Chief Justices on both sides of the border. Motoring between legal jurisdictions wasn’t the only running Tom did; upon turning 50, Tom completed The Boston Marathon, celebrating its 100th year Anniversary.
Tom loved raising his family in Carlisle and was active in civic and community affairs. An 18-year member of the Planning Board, he also served a stint on the Board of Selectman and brought order, common sense and good-natured humor to his role in his terms as Town Moderator. Always looking for ways to share his resources with his neighbors, Tom enlisted his fellow Naval Seabees to help erect the original Carlisle Castle Playground, and later was active in the Carlisle Land Trust and Carlisle Conservation Foundation. Renowned for his dry wit and infamous doodling on the back of a legal pad, Tom was the artist behind Carlisle Capers, a cartoon strip he drew for the Carlisle Gazette, now circulating as the Carlisle Mosquito. This 40-year endeavor of creativity exemplified his connection to and care for Carlisle; he continued his submissions even after he and Janet, moved to the Cape, up until the day before his passing.
A move to Chatham offered Tom an opportunity to continue his practice and be instrumental as legal counsel to the Board of Cape Air. While Tom helped build a business in the sky, he continued to cultivate lasting friendships upon both the ground and his beloved sea. These relationships were the origins of many adventures, highlighted by driving Jeeps across South America, skiing in the Pyrenees Mountains of Andorra, and navigating the locks on river cruises in the South of France. When Tom was not on a voyage, he was just as content toying with a new piece of technology or trying out a new recipe; texting his daughters or walking their dogs. A bibliophile with a penchant for history, Tom reveled in research and the conversations they would inspire. Always devoted to creating harmony on a larger scale, Tom worked with Cape Mediation, and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow mediators as much as when they were in a conference room or in a kayak on a Cape inlet. As a Board Member, Tom enjoyed helping to steer Cape Abilities, an organization dedicated to service and support of individuals with disabilities across Cape Cod.
While many reaped the benefits from Tom’s presence in a legal court, so too, did those on a tennis or platform one. From volunteering for the Acton Indoor Tennis Association’s annual “bubble drop” to organizing tournament brackets and prizes for a tournament run at the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Annual Conference every July, Tom never stopped hosting events for friends old and new. Tom’s devotion to his “Camp Moonpenny” tennis group in Chatham defined not only his enthusiasm for tennis, but his love for this morning fraternity. Tom discovered the joys of platform tennis and was just recently elected a Governor of the Chatham Platform Tennis Association.
Of all Tom’s journeys, his most cherished time was spent traveling in Europe with Janet, and the moments they spent with other couples sharing laughs, a good meal, and a glass of wine. In 2013, committed to honor the legacy of a best friend, Tom spent several weeks walking the route of El Camino from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. “Senor Tomas” became an unofficial ambassador of this life-changing sojourn, offering his trip guidance across social media platforms, in Cape Cod libraries and at the Cape’s L.L. Bean. Tom’s love of walking and talking inspired him to traverse the Scottish Highlands in 2017, of which he would reminisce often blaring the ballads of “The Corries” from his Alexa in the kitchen. Travels and treks embodied the spirit of one of Tom’s fondly referred to quotes, “There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, may they always be”. Tom built the harbor of a lifetime, both sheltering and launching all those he encountered in his path.
In addition to Janet, whom he asked out on a date in front of a Cape Cod miniature golf course 54 years ago this June, he is survived by his adoring daughters Kathleen Erickson of Acton; Karen Raftery of Sudbury; and Kristen Raftery Mooney of Stowe, Vt. Tom will also be remembered by sons-in-law Alan Erickson and Craig Mooney, and brother-in-law, John Robinson. The biggest source of his pride and joy, always sparking a twinkle in Tom’s eye were his Grandchildren, Jake and Matthew Erickson, Mack Bowen and Milly Mooney. Tom was pre-deceased by his brother, Terrance Francis Raftery in 2012.
Tom was unwaveringly protective of his friends, thus in light of the current climate, a private family service will be held now, with a welcoming Celebration of Life planned for the summer of 2021. As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made to Cape Abilities, www.capeabilities.org, an organization close to Tom’s head and heart.
For online condolences please visit: www.nickersonfunerals.com